Life is often about chasing after dreams. But is the chase itself enough to make for a complete life? In Greta Bellamacina’s Hurt by Paradise, we watch two women who are chasing after dreams that are probably beyond their grasps. Should we see this as a celebration or with pity—or both?
Celeste Blackwood (played by director Bellamacina) is a single mother of a toddler. She is striving to find acceptance as a poet. She writes long, maudlin verses about a father she doesn’t know. She is working her way through all the Blackwoods in the phone book trying to connect with that missing part of her life. She describes him as not having left them, but taking a break. Publishers vary in their treatment of her and her poetry. One tells her poetry just doesn’t sell, she should try fiction. Another is more truthful and blunt: her poetry just isn’t good.
Celeste’s neighbor and best friend Stella Mansell (Sadie Brown, who co-wrote with Bellamacina) sees herself as a actress, although her acting ability is of about the same caliber as Celeste’s poetry. She has been in a one-year texting relationship with a man she has never met, but has fallen in love with. When Stella heads off to the seaside to meet her beloved, Celeste follows to rescue her from what seems a sure disaster. In the process the women discover a common bond that shows them what they have been searching for is not a cure for their troubles.
The invitation I received from a publicist about this film called it “the British Francis Ha”. It certainly has that feel as we watch these women trying to define themselves by their own self-understanding rather than by the way the world sees them. It also is a similar blend of their search for happiness, and the melancholy of their reality. Although for me, the melancholy is dominant.
I think the film’s value is found in the questions we might ask ourselves about our reactions to the women. There is a certain pain in knowing they will not achieve their life goals—especially since they both seem oblivious to that fact. But could it be enough that they find happiness in their striving, even if it seems doomed to failure? Does success have to be defined by meeting society’s expectations? How we feel about the film could be a reflection on our own attitudes about what makes a fulfilling life.
Hurt by Paradise is available on VOD.
Photos courtesy of Moviehouse Entertainment.